involves two main methods - the float glass process, which produces sheet glass, and glassblowing
Glassblowing is a glassforming technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble, or parison, with the aid of a blowpipe, or blow tube...
which produces bottles and other containers.
Glass container factories
Broadly, modern glass container factories are three-part operations: the batch house
, the hot end
, and the cold end
. The batch house
handles the raw materials; the hot end
handles the manufacture proper — the furnaces, annealing ovens, and forming machines; and the cold end
handles the product-inspection and -packaging equipment.
The following table lists common viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...
fixpoints, applicable to large-scale glass production and experimental glass melting in the laboratory:
| log10(η, Pa·s)
|| log10(η, P)
|| Melting Point (glass melt homogenization and fining)
|| Working Point (pressing, blowing, gob forming)
|| Flow Point
|| Littleton Softening Point (Glass deforms visibly under its own weight. Standard procedures ASTM C338, ISO 7884-3)
|| Dilatometric Softening Point, Td, depending on load
|| Deformation Point (Glass deforms under its own weight on the μm-scale within a few hours.)
|| Glass Transition Temperature, Tg
|| Annealing Point (Stress is relieved within several minutes.)
|| Strain Point (Stress is relieved within several hours.)
Batch Processing System (Batch House)
Batch processing is one of the initial steps of the glass-making process. The batch house simply houses the raw materials in large silos (fed by truck or railcar) and holds anywhere from 1-5 days of material. Some batch systems include material processing such as raw material screening/sieve, drying, or pre-heating (i.e. cullet). Whether automated or manual, the batch house measures, assembles, mixes, and delivers the glass raw material recipe (batch) via an array of chutes, conveyors, and scales to the furnace. The batch enters the furnace at the 'dog house' or 'batch charger'. Different glass types, colors, desired quality, raw material purity / availability, and furnace design will affect the batch recipe.
The hot end
of a glassworks is where the molten glass is formed into glass products, beginning when the batch is fed into the furnace at a slow, controlled rate by the batch processing system (batch house). The furnaces are natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...
- or fuel oil
Fuel oil is a fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, either as a distillate or a residue. Broadly speaking, fuel oil is any liquid petroleum product that is burned in a furnace or boiler for the generation of heat or used in an engine for the generation of power, except oils having a flash...
-fired, and operate at temperatures up to 1,575°C. The temperature is limited only by the quality of the furnace’s superstructure material and by the glass composition. Types of furnaces used in container glass making include 'end-port' (end-fired), 'side-port', and 'oxy-fuel'. Typically, furnace "size" is classified by metric tons per day (MTPD) production capability.
There are, currently, two primary methods of making a glass container: the blow and blow
method used for narrow neck containers only, and the press and blow
method used for jars and increasingly narrow neck containers. In both cases a stream of molten glass, at its plastic temperature (1050°C-1200°C), is cut with a shearing blade to form a cylinder of glass, called a gob
. Both processes start with the gob
falling, by gravity, and guided, through troughs and chutes, into the blank moulds, two halves which are clamped shut and then sealed by the "baffle" from above. In the "blow and blow" process, the glass is first blown through a valve in the baffle, forcing it down into the three piece "ring mould", which is held in the "neckring arm" below the blanks, to form the "finish", or top of the parison. The "rings" are sealed from below by a short plunger. After the "settleblow" finishes, the plunger retracts slightly, to allow the skin that's formed to soften, before counterblow" air blows up through the plunger, to create a parison
, or pre-container. The baffle raises, the blanks open, and the parison
is inverted in an arc to the "mould side" by the "neckring arm", which holds the "parison" by the "finish". As the "neckring arm" reaches the end of its arc, two mould halves close around the "parison", the "neckring arm" opens slightly to release the "finish" then reverts to the blank side. Final blow
applied through the "blowhead" blows the glass out, in to the mould, to make the final container shape. In the case of press and blow
process, the parison
is formed with a long metal plunger, which rises up and presses the glass out, to fill the ring and blank moulds. The process then continues as before, with the parison
being transferred to the mould, and the glass being blown out into the mould. The container is then picked up from the mould by the "take-out" mechanism, and held over the "deadplate", where air cooling helps cool down the still soft glass, until finally, the bottles are swept onto a conveyor by the "push out paddles" that have air pockets to keep the bottles standing after landing on the "deadplate", now ready for annealing.
The forming machines hold and move the parts that form the container. Generally powered by compressed air
Compressed air is air which is kept under a certain pressure, usually greater than that of the atmosphere. In Europe, 10 percent of all electricity used by industry is used to produce compressed air, amounting to 80 terawatt hours consumption per year....
, the mechanisms are timed to coordinate the movement of all these parts so that containers are made.
The most widely used forming machine arrangement is the individual section
machine (or IS machine). This machine has a bank of 5-20 identical sections, each of which contains one complete set of mechanisms to make containers. The sections are in a row, and the gobs feed into each section via a moving chute, called the gob distributor
. Sections make either one, two, three or four containers simultaneously. (Referred to as single
gob). In the case of multiple gobs, the shears
cut the gobs
simultaneously, and they fall into the blank moulds in parallel.
After the forming process, some containers—particularly those intended for alcoholic spirits—undergo a treatment to improve the chemical resistance of the inside, called internal treatment
Dealkalization is a process of surface modification applicable to glasses containing alkali ions, wherein a thin surface layer is created that has a lower concentration of alkali ions than is present in the underlying, bulk glass...
. This is usually accomplished through the injection of a sulfur- or fluorine-containing gas mixture into bottles at high temperatures. The gas is typically delivered to the container either in the air used in the forming process (that is, during the final blow of the container), or through a nozzle directing a stream of the gas into the mouth of the bottle after forming. The treatment renders the container more resistant to alkali extraction, which can cause increases in product pH, and in some cases container degradation.
As glass cools it shrinks and solidifies. Uneven cooling causes weak glass due to stress. Even cooling is achieved by annealing
Annealing is a process of slowly cooling glass to relieve internal stresses after it was formed. The process may be carried out in a temperature-controlled kiln known as a Lehr. Glass which has not been annealed is liable to crack or shatter when subjected to a relatively small temperature change...
. An annealing oven (known in the industry as a Lehr
A lehr is a temperature-controlled kiln for annealing objects made of glass. The name derives from the German verb lehren meaning to teach and is cognate with the English lere also meaning to learn or acquire knowledge of ....
) heats the container to about 580°C then cools it, depending on the glass thickness, over a 20 – 6000 minute period.
The role of the cold end
is to inspect
the containers for defects, package
the containers for shipment and label
Glass containers are 100% inspected; automatic machines, or sometimes persons, inspect every container for a variety of faults. Typical faults include small cracks in the glass called checks
and foreign inclusions called stones
which are pieces of the refractory
A refractory material is one that retains its strength at high temperatures. ASTM C71 defines refractories as "non-metallic materials having those chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures, or as components of systems, that are exposed to environments above...
brick lining of the melting furnace that break off and fall into the pool of molten glass which subsequently are included in the final product. These are especially important to select out due to the fact that they can impart a destructive element to the final glass product. For example, since these materials can withstand large amounts of themal energy, they can cause the glass product to sustain thermal shock resulting in explosive destruction when heated. Other defects include bubbles in the glass called blisters
and excessively thin walls. Another defect common in glass manufacturing is referred to as a tear
. In the press and blow
forming, if a plunger and mould are out of alignment, or heated to an incorrect temperature, the glass will stick to either item and become torn. In addition to rejecting faulty containers, inspection equipment gathers statistical information and relays it to the forming machine operators in the hot end. Computer systems collect fault information and trace it to the mould that produced the container. This is done by reading the mould number on the container, which is encoded (as a numeral, or a binary code of dots) on the container by the mould that made it. Operators carry out a range of checks manually on samples of containers, usually visual and dimensional checks.
Sometimes container factories will offer services such as labelling
. Several labelling technologies are available. Unique to glass is the Applied Ceramic Labelling
process (ACL). This is screen-printing
Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate...
of the decoration onto the container with a vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...
paint, which is then baked on. An example of this is the original Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...
bottle. Absolut Vodka Bottles have various added services such as: Etching ( Absolut Citron/) Coating (Absolut Raspberry/Ruby Red)and Applied Ceramic Labelling
( Absolut Blue/Pears/Red/Black)
Glass containers are packaged in various ways. Popular in Europe are bulk pallet
A pallet , sometimes called a skid, is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies...
s with between 1000 and 4000 containers each. This is carried out by automatic machines (palletisers) which arrange and stack containers separated by layer sheets. Other possibilities include boxes and even hand sewn sacks. Once packed the new "stock units" are labelled and warehoused.
Glass containers typically receive two surface coatings, one at the hot end
, just before annealing and one at the cold end
just after annealing. At the hot end
a very thin layer of tin oxide is applied either using a safe organic compound or inorganic stannic chloride. Tin based systems are not the only ones used, although the most popular. Titanium tetrachloride or organo titanates can also be used. In all cases the coating renders the surface of the glass more adhesive to the cold end
coating. At the cold end
a layer of typically, polyethylene
Polyethylene or polythene is the most widely used plastic, with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons...
wax, is applied via a water based emulsion. This makes the glass slippery, protecting it from scratching and stopping containers from sticking together when they are moved on a conveyor. The resultant invisible combined coating gives a virtually unscratchable surface to the glass. Due to reduction of in-service surface damage the coatings often are described as strengtheners, however a more correct definition might be strength retaining coatings.
Ancillary processes – compressors & cooling
Forming machines are largely powered by compressed air
Pneumatics is a branch of technology, which deals with the study and application of use of pressurized gas to effect mechanical motion.Pneumatic systems are extensively used in industry, where factories are commonly plumbed with compressed air or compressed inert gases...
and a typical glass works will have several large compressor
A gas compressor is a mechanical device that increases the pressure of a gas by reducing its volume.Compressors are similar to pumps: both increase the pressure on a fluid and both can transport the fluid through a pipe. As gases are compressible, the compressor also reduces the volume of a gas...
s (totaling 30k-60k cfm) to provide the needed compressed air.
Furnaces, compressors and forming machine generate quantities of waste heat which is generally cooled by water. Hot glass which is not used in the forming machine is diverted and this diverted glass (called cullet
) is generally cooled by water, and sometime even processed and crushed in a water bath arrangement. Often cooling requirements are shared over banks of cooling towers arranged to allow for backup during maintenance.
Glass container manufacture in the developed world is a mature market business
. Annual growth in total industry sales generally follows population growth. Glass container manufacture is also a geographical business
; the product is heavy and large in volume, and the major raw materials (sand, soda ash and limestone) are generally readily available, therefore production facilities need to be located close to their markets. A typical glass furnace holds hundreds of tonnes of molten glass, and so it is simply not practical to shut it down every night, or in fact in any period short of a month. Factories therefore run 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This means that there is little opportunity to either increase or decrease production rates by more than a few percent. New furnaces and forming machines cost tens of millions of dollars and require at least 18 months of planning. Given this fact, and the fact that there are usually more products than machine lines means that products are sold from stock. The marketing/production challenge is therefore to be able to predict demand both in the short 4-12 week term and over the 24-48 month long term. Factories are generally sized to service the requirements of a city; in developed countries there is usually a factory per 1-2 million people. A typical factory will produce 1-3 million containers a day.
Despite its positioning as a mature market product, glass does enjoy a high level of consumer acceptance and is perceived as a “premium” quality packaging format.
Glass containers are wholly recyclable
Glass recycling is the process of turning waste glass into usable products. Glass waste should be separated by chemical composition, and then, depending on the end use and local processing capabilities, might also have to be separated into different colors. Many recyclers collect different colors...
and the glass industries in many countries retain a policy, sometimes required by government regulations, to maintain a high price on cullet to ensure high return rates. Return rates of 95% are not uncommon in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland). Return rates of less than 50% are usual in other countries.
Of course glass containers can also be reused, and in developing countries this is common, however the environmental impact of washing the container as against remelting them is uncertain. Factors to consider here are the chemicals and fresh water used in the washing, and the fact that a single use container can be made much lighter, using less than half the glass (and therefore energy content) of a multiuse container. Also, a significant factor in the developed world's consideration of reuse are producer concerns over the risk and consequential product liability
Product liability is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available to the public are held responsible for the injuries those products cause...
of using a component (the reused container) of unknown and unqualified safety.
How glass containers compare to other packaging types (plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...
, cardboard, aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....
) is hard to say, conclusive lifecycle studies are yet to be produced.
Float glass process
is a sheet of glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...
made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal, typically tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...
, although lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...
and various low melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...
alloys were used in the past. This method gives the sheet uniform thickness and very flat surfaces. Modern window
A window is a transparent or translucent opening in a wall or door that allows the passage of light and, if not closed or sealed, air and sound. Windows are usually glazed or covered in some other transparent or translucent material like float glass. Windows are held in place by frames, which...
s are made from float glass. Most float glass is soda-lime glass
Soda-lime glass, also called soda-lime-silica glass, is the most prevalent type of glass, used for windowpanes, and glass containers for beverages, food, and some commodity items...
, but relatively minor quantities of specialty borosilicate and flat panel display
Flat panel displays encompass a growing number of electronic visual display technologies. They are far lighter and thinner than traditional television sets and video displays that use cathode ray tubes , and are usually less than thick...
glass are also produced using the float glass process. The float glass process is also known as the Pilkington process
, named after the British glass manufacturer Pilkington
Pilkington Group Limited is a multinational glass manufacturing company headquartered in St Helens, United Kingdom. It is a subsidiary of the Japan-based NSG Group...
, which pioneered the technique (invented by Sir Alastair Pilkington
Lionel Alexander Bethune Pilkington, and his associate Kenneth Bickerstaff, both of Great Britain, developed the world's first commercially successful manufacture of high quality flat glass using their float glass process...
) in the 1950s.
As with all highly concentrated industries, glassworks suffer from moderately high local environmental impacts. Compounding this is that because they are mature market businesses they often have been located on the same site for a long time and this has resulted in residential encroachment. The main impacts on residential housing and cities are noise, fresh water use, water pollution, NOx
Nitrogen oxide can refer to a binary compound of oxygen and nitrogen, or a mixture of such compounds:* Nitric oxide, also known as nitrogen monoxide, , nitrogen oxide* Nitrogen dioxide , nitrogen oxide...
and SOx air pollution, and dust.
Noise is created by the forming machines. Operated by compressed air, they can produce noise levels of up to 106dBA
The decibel is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity relative to a specified or implied reference level. A ratio in decibels is ten times the logarithm to base 10 of the ratio of two power quantities...
. How this noise is carried into the local neighborhood depends heavily on the layout of the factory. Another factor in noise production is truck movements. A typical factory will process 600T of material a day. This means that some 600T of raw material has to come onto the site and the same off the site again as finished product.
Water is used to cool the furnace, compressor and unused molten glass. Water use in factories varies widely, it can be as little as one tonne water used per melted tonne of glass. Of the one tonne roughly half is evaporated to provide cooling, the rest forms a wastewater stream.
Most factories use water containing an emulsified
An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible . Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although the terms colloid and emulsion are sometimes used interchangeably, emulsion is used when both the dispersed and the...
oil to cool and lubricate the gob
cutting shear blades
. This oil laden water mixes with the water outflow stream thus polluting it. Factories usually have some kind of water processing
Industrial wastewater treatment covers the mechanisms and processes used to treat waters that have been contaminated in some way by anthropogenic industrial or commercial activities prior to its release into the environment or its re-use....
equipment that removes this emulsified oil to various degrees of effectiveness.
The oxides of nitrogen are a natural product of the burning of gas in air and are produced in large quantities by gas fired furnaces. Some factories in cities with particular air pollution problems will mitigate this by using liquid oxygen
Liquid oxygen — abbreviated LOx, LOX or Lox in the aerospace, submarine and gas industries — is one of the physical forms of elemental oxygen.-Physical properties:...
, however the logic of this given the cost in carbon of (1) not using regenerators and (2) having to liquefy and transport oxygen is highly questionable.
The oxides of sulfur are produced as a result of the glass melting process. Manipulating the batch formula can effect some limited mitigation of this; alternatively exhaust plume scrubbing can be used.
The raw materials for glass making are all dusty material and are delivered either as a powder or as a fine-grained material. Systems for controlling dusty materials tend to be difficult to maintain, and given the large amounts of material moved each day, only a small amount has to escape for there to be a dust problem. Cullet
is also moved about in a glass factory and tends to produce fine glass particles when shovelled or broken.
Global environmental impact
The main global impact factor is the production of CO2
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...
due to the burning of fossil fuels in the heating of the furnace and production of electricity to supply the compressors. Typically a ton of glass packed will liberate between 500 and 900 kg of CO2
, assuming a gas fired furnace and coal fired electricity usage. In areas with predominantly renewable or nuclear energy, the CO2
released comes only from the conversion of carbonates to oxides in the ingredients of the glass itself.
- Beer bottle
A beer bottle is a bottle made to contain beer, usually made of glass.Bottled beer has been in use since as early as the 16th century. Beer bottles come in various sizes, shapes and colours....
- Blow moulding
- Borosilicate glass
Borosilicate glass is a type of glass with the main glass-forming constituents silica and boron oxide. Borosilicate glasses are known for having very low coefficients of thermal expansion , making them resistant to thermal shock, more so than any other common glass...
- Boston round (bottle)
A Boston round bottle, or Winchester bottle, is a strong and heavy bottle commonly used in the drug and chemical industries. It is often made of amber glass but is also made of plastics.-Construction:...
- Float glass
Float glass is a sheet of glass made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal, typically tin, although lead and various low melting point alloys were used in the past. This method gives the sheet uniform thickness and very flat surfaces. Modern windows are made from float glass...
- Glass disease
Glass disease, also known as sick glass, is a degradation process encountered in art conservation.Glass disease is caused by an inherent fault in the chemical composition of the original glass formula. Usually, inadequate calcium oxide causes the alkalis in the glass to remain water soluble at a...
- Irving Wightman Colburn
Irving Wightman Colburn was an American inventor and manufacturer.Colburn developed a process for the production of continuous flat glass disks which made the mass production for window panes possible. Colburn began his experiments in 1899. In one patent for a machine to produce flat glass on 25...
- Packaging and labelling
Packaging is the science, art, and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the process of design, evaluation, and production of packages. Packaging can be described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport,...
- Wine bottle
A wine bottle is a bottle used for holding wine, generally made of glass. Some wines are fermented in the bottle, others are bottled only after fermentation. They come in a large variety of sizes, several named for Biblical kings and other figures. The standard bottle contains 750 ml,...